The French Minister of Economy recently drafted an important bill setting out new rules on "growth and activity".  This bill, presented to the Council of Ministers on 10 December 2014, will be examined by the French Parliament starting on 22 January 2015.

Introducing more flexibility for Sunday working and night work

Under French labour law, the weekly rest day must be granted to employees on Sunday.  Working on Sundays is therefore normally forbidden and exceptions to that rule are strictly regulated.  Firstly, there are permanent derogations for food retail businesses located in certain areas where employees are allowed to work on Sundays mornings until 1 pm.  Secondly, opening authorisations for five businesses can be given by the mayor for a period of one year.  Thirdly, there are derogations in tourist areas and areas of exceptional consumption.  Except in tourist areas, there is no statutory right for employees working on Sundays to receive enhanced remuneration.

Under the bill presented on 10 December 2014, 12 (instead of five) business' opening authorisations would be given by the mayor.  Moreover, working on Sundays will be extended to new areas, called "international tourist areas".  In addition, all employees working on Sundays would be entitled to enhanced remuneration.  Company-wide bargaining agreements will have to be negotiated with trade unions, notably to determine the pay given to employees working on Sundays.

The rules regarding night work would also be relaxed by the reform.  In retail businesses located in international tourist areas, employees would be authorised to work until midnight without any prior authorisation, provided that the employees have given their consent and that they receive double pay for work performed between 9pm and midnight.  Companies would have to negotiate company-wide bargaining agreements with trade unions.

Redundancies

The rules on redundancies would be slightly modified by the reform.  For example, the redeployment obligation would be simplified.  Under French employment law, employees cannot have their employment terminated for an economic reason before all efforts to redeploy them within the company and within the group have been made.  More precisely, when a company or a group of companies is located abroad, a specific procedure has to be followed, imposing on the company the duty to make offers of redeployment outside France.  This procedure would be simplified by the reform.

Criminal sanctions for infringement of the works council’s rights

Infringement of the works council’s rights currently constitutes a criminal offence (délit d’entrave) both for the legal representative of the company (or its delegates), who may be sentenced to one-year prison term and/or a fine, and/or the legal entity itself, which can be ordered to pay a fine.  The reform aims at removing the prison term and increasing the amount of the fine.

Procedure before the employment tribunal

Here, the reform is aimed at reducing delays in the employment tribunal and encouraging amicable settlements.

Employee saving schemes

The current rules related to employees' saving schemes would be simplified by the reform and the applicable tax and social security regimes would be modified in order to make it more attractive to both employees and companies.